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Why I Wrote This Book About Bio–Identical Hormones
Thinking back to when I was growing up, women’s periods, their sex hormones, and the various symptoms and health problems that hormonal imbalances caused were not commonly talked about. I realize that I never even knew when, or if, any of the women in my life — my mother, my sister, my cousins, my classmates [before I was training as a nurse], my neighbors — were having their period or were being affected by an imbalance in their sex hormones.
When I was in high school, many of my female classmates appeared to feel very comfortable talking to me about their family, their dreams, their hopes, and their boyfriends when I quickly gained a reputation as a willing listener and as a person who would not gossip. However, even though I had the trust of these young women, they never once talked about their periods or premenstrual symptoms [PMS].
When I was training as a nurse, I learned the medical theories about a woman’s menstrual cycle, birth control, normal and abnormal pregnancies and various gynecological problems that women could have. Indirectly, I also heard about some menstrual and premenstrual problems that my classmates had. For example, when one of my classmates appeared in class on crutches, I heard that she had had such severe menstrual cramps that she had fainted, slipped under her desk, and broke her ankle.
During the time that I trained on an obstetrics/gynecology unit, I had first hand exposure to the importance of educating patients, and the importance of clear communication while I accompanied a registered nurse working on the unit. The nurse wanted to talk to a pregnant lady on the unit that had been placed on the birth control pill approximately a year before. When the nurse asked the woman if she had decided to not take the birth control pill, the woman responded “No, I took the pill every day, but it kept falling out”. Obviously, it had not been clearly explained to the woman that she needed to take the birth control pill by mouth, not place it in her vagina.
During my nursing training, I also had an opportunity to work in a combination family planning clinic and crisis intervention center. My experiences included counseling suicidal women on the telephone. Many of them were contemplating suicide because of the severe premenstrual and menstrual cycle depression and mood swings that they were experiencing.
Working in the family planning clinic, I saw the stress and fear of pregnancy that teenage girls experience when they are being pressured by their boyfriends to take the birth control pill and have sex. The memory of one such teenage girl is still stuck in my mind. This 13 year old girl was so relieved when, after taking her medical history and examining her, the medical doctor told her that it would not be safe for her to take the birth control pill, that she gave both the medical doctor and I a piece of bubblegum.
Even when I was out socially at dances, women either individually or with their boyfriends came to have a discrete talk with me once they found out that I was training to be a nurse. This is how I found out about some of the layperson’s ineffective methods of birth control. Some used douches of Coca–Cola after intercourse, some only had sex while the woman was menstruating believing that she could not get pregnant, and some, desperate to have intercourse, would use Saran wrap if they did not have a condom.
Once I graduated with my Bachelor of Nursing degree, I found that women of all ages viewed me as a professional and did not hesitate to talk to me about their female health problems. The first woman to talk to me about her hormone problems — the first time that she ever did — did it on my graduation day. This was my mother, who was 30 years older than me.
As a public health nurse/community health nurse, I routinely taught prenatal classes, girl to woman classes in grades five and six, as well as family planning classes and pre–pregnancy prenatal classes in the high schools. As women in my prenatal classes became more knowledgeable about the various birthing options and hospital procedures, they became empowered, proactive about what type of birthing experience that they wanted, and accomplished changes such as giving birth without stirrups, having their husband/partner assist during the birth, not having a routine episiotomy, breast feeding immediately after the birth of their baby, having the baby room in with them, and breast feeding their postpartum without formula supplementation by the nursing staff.
As I worked in small rural communities, I was able to routinely visit women in the hospital within a few days of their giving birth and did home visits within a week to the women regardless of whether they had had their first child, or they had other children.
During Well Baby Clinics, when I assessed the growth and development of the baby and gave immunizations, I also assessed the impact of the baby on the family, as well as assessing the physical, mental, emotional and sexual health of the mothers. Therefore, as both a public health nurse/community health nurse and as a married man living in rural communities, I became more and more aware how an imbalance in their sex hormones affected the lives and health of girls as well as women of all ages.
I supported these women emotionally as best as I could as they shared their stories of their hormonal nightmares which included emotional upsets, uncontrollable anger, frustration, helplessness and physical pain when they went through their monthly cycles and the lack of solutions offered to them by their medical doctor.
For example, a woman in her early 30’s, complained about having severe menstrual cramps with every menstrual cycle. Since she already had three children, her medical doctor recommended that she have a hysterectomy. Concerned that if one of her children died, or her marriage ended and she was in a relationship with another man who wanted to have a child with her, she sought other opinions. She shared with me that she went to see a chiropractor, who after taking her health history and assessing her, adjusted her spine and her pelvis. Amazingly, these adjustments resulted in her never having any menstrual cramps whenever she started her period.
In 1981, I was in a bookstore selling used books, and found a paperback copy of the book Once a Month written by Katharina Dalton, MD, a British doctor, who is the acknowledged pioneer in premenstrual syndrome [PMS] research and treatment. She co–authored the first medical paper on PMS in 1953, and then opened the world’s first PMS clinic in London.
I experienced an epiphany of sorts as I read this book and realized that there were doctors who recognized the serious impact of hormonal imbalance on women, and were offering new treatment advice. Unfortunately, at that time, any hormone replacement that was available was synthetic and the monographs warned of such side effects as birth defects in a baby, and an increased risk of cancer in the woman who took them.
These memories and experiences remained in the back of my mind when, due to both of my boys having ongoing reactions to foods and environmental substances, I decided to resign my position as a public health nurse/community health nurse and go and train as a naturopath.
As a naturopath, I was trained to look at the total person — their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components — in order to find the underlying cause(s) of their health problems or disease. As my training consisted of instruction in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy as well as medical science, I learned how to look at health and illness both in terms of Western medicine and Eastern medicine. This resulted not only in me recognizing the impact of a woman’s diet, exercise (or lack of it), stress and lifestyle on her life and health both short term and long term but also how balance and/or imbalance in energy affected a person.
Therefore, this book — The Hormonal Nightmare, has come about as a result of my meeting, listening to, assisting or treating many female patients with hormone related imbalances or health problems over the years. They shared how confusing and frustrating they found all the information and varying opinions of various medical practitioners in treating hormone related problems and symptoms. They have been my teachers, and my incentive for learning more so I could hopefully help them regain quality or life and optimum health. I empathized with them, and after attending many seminars and reading many different books and articles about the female hormones could relate to their confusion and frustration.
Each health practitioner has logical and apparently valid reasons for the way they assess and treat their female patients with hormonal related problems. Yet, with all health practitioners including myself, biases can show up in our approaches as a result of what we have read, whom we have listened to, our training and our personal and professional experiences.
I refer to this phenomenon as the hammer and nail syndrome. I don’t know when I first heard of this syndrome, but basically it states that, if you have a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Likewise, if a health professional is trained in the traditional medical field, or as an acupuncturist, or as a herbalist, or as a homeopath, they will attempt to treat all health problems using that area of specialty that they are particularly familiar with. As a naturopathic doctor, I have tried to be familiar with many different approaches [nutritional, homeopathic, herbal, acupuncture, physical medicine], in order to treat each woman as an individual and respect her preferences in treatment(s).
I have called this book The Hormonal Nightmare (A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Hormones), as many women have found found it to be a nightmare in the past, as well as finding it to be a nightmare now, dealing with the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, trying to understand the different ways that hormones are discussed in books, articles and television shows, trying to make sense of the information and the many strong difference of opinions given by many various health professionals, and trying to figure out whose opinion and which products they can trust.
Therefore, in this book, I have tried to remain objective, in order to provide the reader with the most up to date information and opinions regarding hormones in general as well as biologically identical [bio identical] hormones. Also, being aware that the word doctor comes from the Latin word “docere”, which means to teach, I have tried to write this book as clearly as possible using illustrations [a picture is worth a thousand words] and references to common items.
A book such as this one, is never really completed at one writing. It needs to be constantly updated as new information becomes available. Therefore, you will find that this book is a constant work in process, that you can revisit at different times, in order to find out about the changes and updates or you can subscribe to the RSS feed.